Characteristics of a Loyal B2B CustomerKerry Guard • February 7, 2013 • 11 minutes to read
I wrote a post 8 years ago, about what makes a loyal customer, as we were (and are) in the business of delivering loyal customers to complex b2b brands. You can read the original post below.
Given, we ourselves have been in business for 10 years now, I thought it time to update this post to what we found makes B2B loyal customers. The original post works really well for consumer brands, but not necessarily B2B.
B2B characteristics of a loyal customer are similar, but how you keep them loyal are different.
What are the Characteristics of a Loyal B2B Customer
- They stick with you for years, even when times get tough
- They refer you to colleagues and other companies
Characteristics of Loyal B2B Customer
At MKG, we've had some brands renew their contracts with us for 6+ years. We've wavered through turn over on both sides, dips in performance, and a pandemic.
We've also had our direct clients leave then bring us to their next job. The average span of a marketer at an organization is two years. We've worked with some individuals off and on for eight years. They leave their company, go to a new one, and bring us along.
The other way you can see if you have loyal customers, is they tell people about you and new clients show up as a result. This is easier to measure and perpetuate in consumer brands. "Invite 5 friends and your next box is free!" B2B is more difficult. Reputations are on the line. If someone refers you and it doesn't go well, the person referred will go back to the original source and tell them all about it, making your client or direct contact feel bad. To be referred there has be to be a deep level of trust and clear outcomes.
How to Develop and Retain Loyal B2B Customers
Transparency: As part of our mission and core values, transparency is the core of who we are internally and externally. It's also why we had team members stay for 5 - 8 years. We don't shy away from tough conversations. We take time to understand what is going on, come up with a plan, then pull back the curtain. Not going to hit our KPIs? Why? What can we do to get as close as possible? Due to outside challenges beyond our or the client's control, like a Pandemic, do we need to reset expectations? Can we? Let's talk about it.
Accountability: We are very up front about our value of People First. As our client and as a member of our organization you are a person before you are a client or employee. In doing so, clear boundaries are set to instill that from day one. We have set hours. We do not send emails after work hours, nor pick up the phone, nor respond to text messages. Why? Because we work to LIVE. This allows us to set clear expectations. We use the SCRUM framework and sprint weekly so the clients know exactly what is promised each week. If they need something urgently, then we talk about what we can move around to accommodate it.
As a remote agency for the last 10 years, we've found that open communication is beyond key. We have bi-weekly check-ins with our clients where we don't just run through an agenda. We have an open dialog about where we are and where we're going. This is just one system that perpetuates transparency and accountability here at MKG Marketing, but in terms of building loyal customers it's one of the most important in terms of keeping that line of communication open on a regular basis.
Finding Loyal Customers
The B2B customer has evolved. As I said earlier. The buyer's journey is not linear in B2B. The B2B Buyer needs two things:
- To do their own research
- Have a relationship with the brand
The funnel, while still important, is not linear. The buyer's journey is no longer, "see it, like it, buy it," (unless it's me, in Fat Face, trying on all the clothes). Buyers want to be in charge of their own destiny. Not out of need or emotion, but because they are in the driver's seat, in control of making the decision. They no longer want to talk to sales people until they are ready to pull the trigger.
Which means as marketers, we need to provide all the content that buyers can research. We need to think through all the questions buyers would have and develop enough content they feel they can make an informed decision all on their own. Or, at least, mostly on their own.
Identify your brand message. Gwen Lafage and Tamsen Webber both talked to me about branding. First the importance of why you need to find your brand message, then how to find your red thread to get there. Niel Gordon has a similar method to Tamsen, called finding your silver bullet. Whatever your method, make sure you have a clear brand message of what your company does, for who, and the value it brings based on the challenges your customer faces.
For instance, ours is:
What: A digital marketing agency Who: Complex B2B Brands How: transparency and measuring outcomes end to end
We help complex B2B brands get found via transparent, measurable digital marketing.
In terms of uncovering client's needs and questions they have, some of our podcast guests recommend finding your blue wave by sitting in on client or sales calls or talking to your customer service teams. We send out a 45 day survey to make sure our client's initial interaction with us is more than what they were expecting.
You MUST talk to existing clients in some capacity to understand why they picked you and why they are still with you.
There are so many ways to build content now. While blogging is the standard, we have recommended client's build hubs around keywords they want to own. For ExtraHop they built a Library. It's exactly that. Protocols they support and what each one means. While the traffic or sessions are awareness based, they're able to find new users that have never heard of them before, then message across LinkedIn, Facebook, and Display with value based messaging. Really helps build the remarketing pool.
Another way is to brainstorm how to take one piece of content and turn it into many, like Melanie Deziel talks about in her book The Content Fuel Engine. First start off with the medium you're most comfortable with, then see how else you can translate it to get in front of more people. Whether video, social, email, etc.
However, just because you build the content, doesn't mean they will come.
Surround Your Audience
You need to ensure they can find your content via Google or Bing (yes, people still use Bing). Search Engine Optimization is your best long game friend. It takes time to get the engine up and running, but if you're building content consistently, then make sure your SEO foundational elements are in place from keyword strategy, to thoughtful Title Tags, to click-able Meta Descriptions, permalink structure, and more.
Then, surround your audience across all different kinds of media from blogging to social to video to audio. Digital Advertising is like a faucet. You can certainly do this grass roots style. It takes time though and you may end up where you depend primarily on referrals and repeat customers. Incorporating Digital Advertising allows you to surround your audience at a greater scale.
Building loyal customers starts at the onset with the right content to build trust and engagement. It might feel like you're giving away your secret sauce and it should. By showcasing your expertise you're building trust. Yes, this takes time. Like I said, it's no longer a linear funnel. Buyers want to be seen, heard, and understood. Content can demonstrate that. Put your customer in the driver's seat. Let go of the wheel. The right content will put your customers on the road to your front door, you just need to let them navigate there on their own.
Just because they're now a paying customer doesn't mean the work stops there and you can sit back and coast. Customer service is more important now than ever. There is so much more competition out there. People can jump ship to other tools or services in the drop of a hat. Seeing, hearing, and understanding your customers must continue once they buy.
As I mentioned above. To build a relationship with your customers you need transparency and accountability. It should be built into your organization through your mission, values, process, and systems. If these two elements are systemic then the customer will keep coming back and telling others.
Interested in experiencing our transparent and accountable relationship for yourself? See what working with MKG Marketing looks like for the first year.
Read our approach.
Original Article Copy:
As you may have read, we're in the business of delivering loyal customers to our clients.
But what exactly is a loyal customer?
A loyal customer is the result of having a consistent emotional attachment, physical attribute-based satisfaction and perceived value of an experience, which includes the product or services. Consider who you yourself are loyal to and why.
The following are characteristics that help us identify customers who are (or could be) faithful to a service, product or brand:
They keep coming back. And why do they keep coming back?
Exceptional Customer Experience
Research company Access Development reported that 79% of customers would take their business to a competitor within a week of experiencing poor customer service, while the estimated cost of customers switching their choice of businesses due to poor service is $1.6 trillion.
Now with social media and the internet, customer reviews are currency and customers know it. If they file a complaint and it doesn't get dealt with immediately you can expect they'll take it to Twitter, Yelp, or Google and make that complaint public.
Make sure you have a good customer experience in place. An easy way for people to contact you and an even easier way for your team to effectively respond immediately.
Eight out of ten customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience.
Loyalty programs are proven to increase customer lifetime value by up to 30%or more by increasing visit frequency, increasing spend per visit, and winning back lost customers.
Starbucks, Sephora, Gap are all examples of brands that offer REAL loyalty programs for rewarding you for each purchase, causing a loop of then buying more from them because of the points you received.
GapCash is a great example of this. I recently dropped over $150 worth in Gap. They rewarded me $50 GapCash to be used in a specific time frame. I then went online and bought $200 worth of clothes in that time frame and once again spent $150. That's $150 I may not have spent otherwise or could have spent somewhere else. And because I spent $150 and online I got another $60. And now I'm stuck in a loop and because it's time stamped for weeks away from the original purchase I'm more likely to buy more than that $60 because it's all new inventory.
Advocates for your brand
When a consumer believes in a brand, they tell the world, especially women, and especially mom's. 74% of women said they would refer a friend to a loyalty program that they participate in compared to 67% of men. Women are more social and more willing to share their experiences with friends and family.
TheSkimm is a newsletter that sums up the world news daily and is geared towards women. At the end of each newsletter it has a count of how many people you personally have referred. Once you reach 10 you become a Skimm'Bassador. The funny thing is, as an ambassador all you get is Skimm swag so that you can wear the brand and just promote it further. The real success of this isn't the swag, it's that chart at the bottom of the newsletter that shows how many people you've influenced. That's the driver.
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I recently went through the Hubspot inbound marketing course materials and they say a brand HAS to be three things; human, holistic, and helpful.
It really comes down to what your company values are. As an example, here are our company values. Each value is about the human element whether it's taking care of our people and their families, recognizing that in order to grow and learn you need to fail, or reminding ourselves that no man is an island and we all need to work together.
The holistic piece is pulling those values through the whole company, marketing, and client relationships. Recognizing our clients are human too who have families and have failures we all learn from.
And everything we do as a company has to come back to: Are we helping our clients look their best.
To create repeat advocates you need great customer service and a loyalty program that is human, holistic, and helpful.
We can help fill your pipeline all day long with our PPC and SEO services and your existing sales cycle might have a killer close rate. By making sure you have great customer service and a killer loyalty program those initial buyers we drive for you, could have more bang for their buck then you even know but turning them into repeat customers who tell their friends, family, and colleagues.
Do you already have great customer service and loyalty programs and you're ready to fill that engine with the right leads? Request a discovery call with us.
Hope to hear from you soon,